Eight of 16 upholstered furniture flame retardants pose little or no health risk, says a new report from the National Academies’ National Research Council (NRC). Eight other flame-retardant chemicals that may be used to treat furniture fabric should be studied further.The conclusions could open a large market for makers of the eight chemicals. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is considering mandating treatment of residential furniture to prevent upholstery fires, which annually claim about 100 Americans, most of them children. Under the ruling, fabric makers would have to apply chemicals to several hundred million square yards of fabric annually.A request by the National Association of State Fire Marshals prompted Congress to ask NRC to study the health risks posed by exposure to flame-retardant chemicals.”We concluded that eight of these 16 chemicals can be used to treat residential furniture with minimal risk to human health,” says Donald Gardner, president of Inhalation Toxicology Associates Inc. (Raleigh, NC) and chair of NRC panel that wrote the report.”Studies are needed on the other eight, however, to find out how much exposure people would actually have to these chemicals if they were used on home furniture. If a high amount of exposure is likely for a particular chemical, then further studies on its toxicity may be warranted,” Gardner continues.

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